Alaska salmon industry pulls out of sustainable fisheries certification program
Alaska's salmon industry, citing a need to broaden marketing efforts, gives Marine Stewardship Council notice of withdrawal from certification program.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Alaska salmon industry is pulling out of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification program in a move that will take effect at the end of October.
The decision is a setback for the council, which was founded 14 years ago and has grown into a high-profile effort that uses independent contractors to certify 133 global fisheries as sustainable.
The certification enables buyers to be assured a fishery is sustainably managed, and offers a means to track the product through the supply system, according to Kerry Coughlin, MSC Americas regional director.
In a statement released Tuesday, the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, which represents the state's salmon industry in MSC certification, said the majority of processors "now feel it is time to redirect their resources toward a broader marketing message." It also said swift action was necessary "to resolve the issue and quell speculation and confusion in the salmon market."
The action came after eight processors, which collectively handle more than 70 percent of the state harvest, told the foundation they would pull out of the program. One industry source said there was frustration with the rising complexity of the program, and concerns that some Alaska salmon might end up certified as sustainable while other harvests might not.
Alaska is North America's largest source of wild-caught salmon, and encompasses chinook, sockeye, pink, coho and chum caught in the state's coastal waters in harvests managed by the state Department of Fish and Game.
The state salmon industry was an early participant in the MSC program with an initial certification in 2000 and a five-year recertification in 2007 that will stay in place through Oct. 29 of this year
"We regret that the Alaska salmon fishery is being withdrawn from the assessment under way for a potential third certification period," Coughlin said in a statement released by the MSC on Tuesday. "While there are other sources of MSC-certified salmon, Alaska was an early and important leader in the program."
Under the MSC program, the industry contracts with a certifier that assesses how the fisheries management stacks up against the council's standards. The auditor that assessed Alaska's salmon in 2007 listed some 70 issues that needed to be addressed.
As of December, as the industry worked on another five-year certification, some 19 of those conditions still had not been addressed, according to a document posted on the website of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation.
Most of the unresolved issues dealt with the interactions of hatchery stock with other salmon.
In an interview, Coughlin said she hopes some Alaska salmon processors will be able to come forward on their own and obtain recertification.
"A lot of companies have told us that this continues to be very important to them," Coughlin said.
The salmon industry's decision to withdraw from the recertification does not affect one smaller tribally managed salmon harvest in Southeast Alaska or other Alaska fisheries that have obtained MSC certification.
Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or firstname.lastname@example.org